TV column for Thursday, March 31

“The Big Bang Theory,” 8 p.m., CBS.

After being bumped
by basketball for two weeks, TV's best comedy is back. Leading into a
season-finale (“Life in Pieces”) and a series debut (“Rush
Hour”), it gives CBS a big night.

Tonight, Sheldon has
another perosnal tragedy – his laptop breaks. That leads to a
revelation for Amy. Also, Leonard and Howard lie to their wives, in
order to catch the early screening of a movie.

II: “American Idol,” 8-10 p.m., Fox.

A TV tradition ends
next week, with the final night of this final season. First are the
cheery moments when the singers go back home. It's all-Southern (as
are many “Idol” finales), with Trent Harmon and La'Porsha Renae
in Mississippi, Dalton Rapattoni in Texas and Mackenzie Bourg in

The complication is
that one of them is already doomed, finishing fourth in last weeks
votes. Tonight, we'll learn who it is; the others will each sing
three songs and Keith Urban, a judge, will sing one.

“Rush Hour” debut, 10 p.m., CBS.

For years, CBS has
asked viewers to go from Thursday comedies to a heavy-duty drama. Now
it eases the transition, with a show that mixes humor and humanity
alongside the action and violence.

Jon Foo and Justin
Hires take roles filled by Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in the 1998
movie – a quiet Hong Kong cop and a never-quiet American cop.
Hires' ex-partner (Aimee Garcia) sees his good side; his boss (Wendie
Malick) doesn't. Produced by a comedy guy (Bill Lawrence of “Scrubs”)
and directed by a light-action guy (Jon Turteltaub of “National
Treasure”), this is an OK way to end a fun night.

ALTERNATIVE: “Hoff the Record,” 9 p.m. ET, AXS.

Not enough people
have heard of AXS; too many have heard of David Hasselhoff. When the
two link, however, the result is a drolly clever surprise.

AXS is the Mark
Cuban channel that ranges from music to Dan Rather. Hasselhoff is the
“Knight Rider” and “Bay Watch” guy who sang on the Berlin
Wall, then almost self-destructed. Wisely, he plays a Hoff who's full
of himself; he brought down the Berlin Wall, he says, and can do that
to the Wailing Wall and the Wall of China. Alas, in England he meets
people who match his self-delusion.

Other choices

“You, Me and the
Apocalypse” season-finale, 8-9 p.m., NBC. Here's the episode this
clever (but inconsistent) series has pointed to. Rhonda and Leanne
break out of jail (again); Jamie breaks out of the vault. They all
head to the bunker to ride out the apocalypse ... but then face
another barrier.

“Life in Pieces,”
8:30 and 9 p.m., CBS. A good first season ends with a pair of new
episodes. In one, Tim insists on wearing a “Cinderella dress”
while rooting for his team in the basketball tournament. In the
other, John and Joan reveal a secret they've been keeping from their
three kids for 35 years.

“Scandal,” 9
p.m., ABC. Olivia gets powerhouse information about one of the
presidential candidates. Now her team scrambles to verify it.

“The Catch,” 10
p.m., ABC. Last week's opener saw a handsome schemer (Peter Krause)
bilk a glamorous accountant (Mireille Enos). Now she obsesses on
finding him, distracting her from a high-profile job. Also, he finds
that he must quickly pull another scam.

“Shades of Blue,”
10 p.m., NBC. Fresh from Jennifer Lopez's second-to-last week as an
“Idol” judge, you can see her season-finale as a semi-corrupt
cop. She scrambles to get immunity for her crew.

season-opener, 10 p.m., FX. No longer wanted by the CIA, the agency
settles for detective work in California ... where only Figgis
qualifies for a license. Then – as happens in most Los Angeles
private-eye stories – a glamorous woman walks in with a desperate
plea. It's a promising start for this animated show for grown-ups,
mixing humor and action.

TV column for Wednesday, March 30

“Empire” return, 9 p.m., Fox.

Four months ago,
“Empire” ended the first half of its season with shellshocks:
Hakeem voted with Camilla (Naomi Campbell) to push his dad out of the
record company. Also, someone pushed Rhonda – the pregnant wife of
Hakeem's brother Andre -- down the stairs.

Now comes a fierce
hour of revenge, regret and recovery. As usual, it unfolds with the
absurd speed of a soap opera ... yet remains compelling because of
strong emotions, a gifted cast and great music. Some of the best
moments, late in the hour, come from the talented Jamila Velazquez as
newcomer Laura.

“Rosewood,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Given a golden
opportunity this fall – as the lead-in to “Empire” --
“Rosewood” failed in the ratings. But now it has a second chance
... and has a change-of-pace episode.

The case is kind of
absurd, with an unforced confession. Still, it's a springboard to
other things: There's the friendship of the captain (whose fourth
marriage is ending) and an old colleague .... And a brilliant monolog
in which Dr. Rosewood contrives an intense tale involving Villa, the
cop ... And a chance to show off Villa variously in bikini, evening
gown and short-shorts; each is a good look for her.

ALTERNATIVE: “Nature,” 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

Damian Aspinall, a
millionaire entrepreneur, runs an animal santuary in England; Dr.
Rebecca Atencia, a veterinarian, treats and nurtures orphaned chimps
in the Congo. Both have returned animals to the wild, leaving
questions: Would the animals still know them? What are their memories
and emotions?

We find out here.
Atencia seeks a chimp she released two years ago, Aspinall searches
for a gorilla he knew five years ago, others seek a cheetah, an
elephant and more. This hour adds occasional comments from experts,
but remains mostly just a warm, feel-good show.

ALTERNATIVE II: Emerging networks.

“The Path” (any
time, Hulu) arrives today, with an intriguing notion: Eddie (Aaron
Paul) is a longtime member of a cult whose leader (Hugh Dancy) used
to be the loved one of Eddie's now-wife. Suddenly filled with doubts,
Eddie has trouble saying anything about it.

Also “Rogue” (9
p.m., the Audience Network, via DirecTV and AT&T) finds two
tricky pursuits. Deakins fumes when her prime witness was murdered in
prison; Ethan chases a mysterious beauty who has a valuable
flashdrive. The latter story switches direction, during a tough, taut

Other choices

(1984), 7:10 p.m., Starz. Sharply written and directed by James
Cameron, this sci-fi classic starts a strong movie night. Disney has
the animated “Horton Hears a Who” (2008) at 8 p.m.; Turner
Classic Movies hasd “The Artist” (2011) – a silent,
Oscar-winning delight – at 9:30 p.m. ET.

“Survivor,” 8
p.m., CBS. Last week, Peter Baggenstos, an emergency-room doctor, was
the second person from the original “Brains” team to be ousted.
Now a merger involves the four remaining “Brains” and “Beauty
people and the three from “Brawn.”

“Heartbeat,” 8
p.m., NBC. It's another big, broad story – this one complete with a
backward-talker and hospital-room sex. Some parts, including an
over-the-top grandmother, go way too far. Still, the lead character
(Melissa George) is so likable that “Heartbeat” is sometimes

“Modern Family,”
9 p.m., ABC. In a rerun, Gloria is way too excited about jury duty.
Her husband Jay is much less excited about being the pre-school

“The Americans,”
10 p.m., FX. Troubles keep building for Philip and Elizabeth, since
they tried to recruit their teen daughter to join them as Russian
spies. Now she's told her pastor; their Russian handler may help, but
he has bigger concerns, shipping a deadly virus. The hour ends

“Hap and Leonard,”
10 p.m., Sundance. What started as a quirky delight has skidded, with
two straight episodes in which the guys are held hostage. It's a
great showcase for the talented Jimmi Simpson as the villain; still,
the surprises wear off and the brutality lingers, in this
second-to-last episode.

TV column for Tuesday, March 29

“New Girl,” 8 p.m., Fox.

Jess' tattered work
history got another jolt recently: She quit her school job, because
she hated the principal. Now she has a shot at trendy school, where
kids can talk to a chair in the “feelings farm.”

It's all quite
promising ... except that the principal (Lucy Punch) is dating Sam
(David Walton), the doctor who is Jess' ex-lover. Now it's time for
grown-ups to talk to the chair ... and, in very funny ways, for Jess
to show her habit of making every situation worse by talking too

“Secrets of the Dead,” 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

In 1962, three men
tried the impossible -- an escape from Alcatraz. They made a raft of
raincoats, paddled into treacherous currents ... and vanished.

Officials guess that
they drowned, but no one's sure; the FBI still has an agent assigned
to the case. Now three Dutch scientists try to duplicate this. The
result is tricky, interesting and open-ended.

ALTERNATIVE: “The People v O.J. Simpson,” 10 p.m., FX; reruns at
11 p.m. and 1a.m.

Already blasted by
surprises and detours, prosecutors (Sarah Paulson and Sterling Brown)
faces a new jolt: The lead detective in the case had testified he'd
never used the “n word.” Now a tape surfaces in which he uses it
often, while describing a career filled with planted evidence and
forced confessions.

But will it be
allowed in court? And what of the part in which he insults the
judge's wife, who is a top cop? Setting up next week's finale, it's a
great hour, brilliantly played by Paulson and Brown.

Other choices

“The Flash,” 8
p.m., CW. On Monday, the Flash (Grant Gustin) was at a bigger network
(CBS), helping Supergirl. Now he's back to his own goal – zooming
to Earth-2 and stopping Zoom. First, he must time-travel backward, to
learn how to go even faster.

“NCIS,” 8 p.m.,
CBS. In a rerun of a Thanksgiving-week episode, the team scrambles to
find a new bone-marrow donor for a sailor whose siblings died. Also,
Ellie visits her mother (Lindsay Wagner).

“NCIS: New
Orleans,” 9 p.m., CBS. Funeral parades in New Orleans tend to be
festive. But this time, one of the parade people has been killed.

“You Me Her,” 9
p.m., Audience Network (DirecTV and AT&T). Last week's opener
introduced likable people who had lots of love and little sex. Things
improved when Jack (Greg Poehler) called an escort (Priscilla Faia)
... who was soon called by Jack's wife Emma (Rachel Blanchard). That
leaves a lot to dealwith tonight. This is a smart, subtle half-hour,
skillfully handled by a good actors.

“Carpool Karaoke
Special,” 10 p.m., CBS. In his first year, James Corden has brought
a ftresh touch to latenight TV, led by his quirky “Karaoke,” in
which big-deal stars – Adele, Sia, Justin Bieber, Stevie Wonder,
etc. -- pretend to be his ride-along singing partners. Now Corden
airs a new “Karaoke” with Jennifer Lopez, plus bits of others; he
also includes other highlights from the year.

“Frontline,” 10
p.m., PBS (check local listings). Saudi Arabia is often presented as
the moderate Mideast nation. This documentary, however, uses
undercover tape to show a place that mixes enormous wealth and stark
poverty and has harsh violence toward women.

TV column for Monday, March 28

“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” 8 p.m., CW.

It's time for this
wonderfully weird show to make a quick turnaround ... maybe. For 15
episodes, Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) has obsessed on Josh, who was her
teen crush. Now she's ready to change that. She'll be nice to his dim
fiancee Valencia ... and even discard her macaroni portrait of Josh.

But can she really
do that? And why does her friend resist? There's a big finish
tonight, preceded – as usual – by a couple witty songs. Greg
(Santino Fontana, a Tony-nominee who voiced Hans in “Frozen,”
sings about giving up; Bloom has a bouncy tune about the perceived
woes of having large breasts.

“Supergirl,” 8 p.m., CBS.

Here is a TV rarity
– a crossover that spans two networks. Greg Gustin – who starts
in “The Flash,” Tuesdays on CW – visits the CBS show.

It helps, of course,
that CW and CBS have corporate links ... and that both characters are
owned by DC Comics.Tonight, the Flash flashes in from an alternate
dimension, to help Supergirl battle the Silver Banshee (Italia Ricci)
and Livewire (Brit Morgan).

ALTERNATIVE: “Independent Lens,” 10 p.m., PBS (check local

Randall Zwinge was a
smart and lonely Canadian kid who passed his tests, skipped classes
and was dazzled by a Harry Blackstone magic show. He ran away with a
carnival at 17, became an escape artist and The Amazing Randi ... and
continued Harry Houdini's mission of disproving psychics and such.

His proteges fooled
researchers and Australians. On Johnny Carson's show, he stopped
“psychic” Uri Geller and played the secret audio messages that
let a “faith healer” cheat troubled people. Still, psychics keep
arriving. Here's a fascinating view of Randi, 88, including a
deception in his own life.

Other choices

“Very British
Problems,” any time,
The British are troubled by many things, it seems, includimg ...
well, people. This fun, three-hour series has celebrities confessing
their personal woes.

“Dancing With the
Stars,” 8-10:01 p.m., ABC. Last week's opener saw three stars –
singer Wanya Morris, meteorologist Ginger Zee and deaf model/actor
Nyle DiMarco – tie for judges' top score. At the bottom were the
old guys -- Geraldo Rivera, 72, and Doug Flutie, 53. Now we'll see
who goes.

“Gotham,” 8
p.m., Fox. While two DC stars link on “Supergirl,” another (the
future Batman) struggles here. Also, Gordon is in prison and the
Penguin deals with his dad (Paul Reubens)..

“The Fosters”
season-finale, 8 p.m., Freeform. Last week brought a jolt, when Jack
– a sweet-spirited kid who temporarily stayed with the family –
was killed at his new foster home. Now there's mourning and anger;
also, Brandon faces a turning point when Cortney is thrown out by her

“Scorpion,” 9
p.m., CBS. A tornado nears the team, which is gathering Marines'
bodies in Vietnam.

“Magic in the
Making,” 9 p.m., Aspire. Vertically, they're opposites – 6-foot-9
Magic Johnson, 5-foot-2 Misty Copeland. But both are awesome athletes
and relentlessly positive people. Johnson interviews Copeland, the
first black principal ballerina in the 75-year history of the American
Ballet Theatre. His admiration for her is obvious ... viewers will
soon agree with him.

“Damien,” 10
p.m., A&E. In recent days, four people near Damien Thorne have
died in messy ways. Now a cop closes in ... and finds how perilous
that can be. It's a sharp episode with strong moments.

TV column for Sunday, March 27

“Grantchester” season-opener, 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings).

The setting fits all
proper PBS traditions – a gorgeous little English village, filled
with pleasant people ... plus, most weeks, one killer. But the the
hero is something new.

Sidney Chambers
(James Norton) is handsome almost to excess. He's a vicar who drinks
too much and is bad at romance, but good with people and great at
solving crimes. In this episode – a good one -- he's accused of
sex with a teenager; his friend (Robson Green), a cop, springs to his

“The Good Wife,” 9 p.m., CBS.

This smart and
well-crafted drama will have its last new episode May 8. Tonight, the
power struggle in the law firm – now called Lockhart, Lagos and Lee
– keeps growing.

Meanwhile, Alicia
has other problems. The case against her husband Peter gets rougher,
when the prosecutor uses Eli's daughter in the effort to convict him.
Also, Alicia and Diane have a trendy case: A therapist is suing for
privacy rights, because his neighbor's drone keeps flying over his

ALTERNATIVE: “Grease,” 7-10 p.m., Fox.

Last week's “The
Passion” was worth catching, flaws and all. But now here's a rerun
of the one live musical that was a total triumph.

Thomas Kail –
director of Broadway's acclaimed “Hamilton” -- took a so-so story
and gave it a vibrant feel. That was clear from the first moments,
when Jessie J. frolicked through the set, singing the title song.
Soon, the show was sprawling all over the Warner Brothers lot.
Skilled young stars – led by Aaron Tveit and Julianne Hough, with
Joe Jonas fronting the band – brought old pop songs to life.

ALTERNATIVE II: “Grace Unplugged” (2013), 7 and 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Sometimes, it's just
a matter of finding the right niche. Three years after this died
instantly in movie theaters, “Grace” has its perfect spot – as
an Easter-night movie on the former Gospel Music Channel.

Johnny (James
Denton) was a rock star who hit alcoholism and despair, then became a
music minister, singing with his daughter. But now Grace is 18, with
a shot at her own fame. Johnny is overwrought at times and a plot
twist about her second single is lame. Still, Denton, Kevin Pollak
and Shawnee Smith -- are solid pros. And mostly, this is about Grace
(A.J. Michalka) and the music, both worth catching.

Other choices

“Hop” (2011),
3:30 and 10 p.m., Freeform. The light side of Easter gets some
attention today. This comedy is an amiable blend of live action and a
cartoon bunny. Also: At 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has
“Easter Parade” (1948) with Fred Astaire, Judy Garland and Irving
Berlin tunes.

“King of Kings”
(1961), 5:15 p.m. ET, TCM. The serious side of Easter also gets its
due. That includes this epic, directed by Nicholas Ray (“Rebel
Without a Cause”), with Jeffrey Hunter as the consummate rebel with
a cause. UP has contemporary Christian films, including Kirk
Cameron's “Fireproof” (2008) at 2 p.m. ET and “Courageous”
(2011) at 4:30.

Basketball, 6:10
p.m. and about 8:40 p.m. ET, TBS. By the end of the night, the NCAA
will have its final four, ready to collide next Saturday. CBS had two
of the games Saturday, now it's TBS' turn.

“Frozen” (2013),
7:30 p.m., Freeform. This animated gem provides a perfect way to wrap
up a family weekend. It has dashes of humor, alongside strong drama,
gorgeous visuals and the soaring “Let It Go.”

Secretary,” 8 p.m., CBS. A mysterious plane crash stalls
India-Pakistan peace talks.

“The Family,” 9
p.m., ABC. Last week's powerhouse showe that Hank -- the neighbor who
spent 11 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit – was
savagely beaten. Now he blames Adam's family.

“Mr. Selfridge,”
10 p.m., PBS (check local listings). In the first seasons, we savored
the full-throttle life of Selfridge (Jeremy Piven), an American who
was shaking up London's stores and its society. But now that approach
seems almost suicidal, with his unfiltered gambling and womanizing
and investment schemes. “Selfridge” continues to be well-made,
even if this final season is less fun.